LAST Wednesday the international coffee giant JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) issued dismissal notices to nearly 300 of its workers at the Banbury plant who had refused to sign new contracts that could mean some of them losing up to £12,000 a year – a move branded ‘corporate gangsterism’ by the Unite union.
Workers who refused to sign new contracts by 17 March were issued with a 12 weeks notice period of termination – which expired yesterday.
Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: ‘The company has today announced its notice to dismiss the entire workforce by using unscrupulous “fire and rehire” tactics.’
Clarke said: ‘We can only describe the company’s greed-driven approach as a result of a culture of corporate gangsterism by this highly profitable Dutch-owned company.’
Ever since JDE showed its determination to drive through wage cuts using fire and rehire, Unite has called a 72-hour strike followed by two 24-hour strikes along with a continuous overtime ban from May 1st.
None of these actions has deterred a management driven by the capitalist imperative to ramp up profits for owners and shareholders by savagely attacking the wages of workers.
Management’s determination to shrug off these limited strikes and overtime bans has undoubtedly been strengthened by the treacherous betrayal by the GMB union over the sacking of up to 500 engineers by British Gas in April. These were workers who took a stand by refusing to sign up to wage cutting contracts under fire and rehire notices.
Just as at JDE, British Gas workers voted massively for strike action to defeat fire and rehire but, again, this anger was channelled into a series of limited strikes that management ignored.
When the crunch came, and hundreds of engineers were actually sacked, the GMB did absolutely nothing except issue pious words condemning the ‘inhumanity’ of the employer.
There was no call for action to reinstate them instead they were dumped by the union.
When JDE announced last week it would commence sacking from June 7th all Clarke would say was: ‘We will now escalate strike action in the weeks ahead until the company withdraws these notices and enters into constructive dialogue with Unite to chart a way forward that does not cause economic and social havoc to Banbury and the wider economy.’
In April, Unite launched a national campaign to end fire and rehire promising to use ‘coordinated strikes and actions’ across the country to defeat it.
But the Unite leadership made it plain that this campaign of limited strike action, demonstrations and posters is merely a desperate attempt to convince the Tories to introduce legislation outlawing fire and rehire saying: ‘Unite’s campaign demands that the government steps in, ends fire and rehire and makes the practice illegal.’
Every worker knows the Tories will never make wage cutting illegal. The struggle at JDE has reached a crunch point for the Unite leadership.
The hundreds of workers at Banbury must demand that the pledge for coordinated national strike action be actually carried out, and insist that Unite is not allowed to dump them as the GMB leaders did with the British Gas engineers.
According to the TUC, fire and rehire is ripping through industry and businesses with already one-in-ten workers threatened with it during the pandemic.
This number will dramatically explode once the Tory furlough scheme ends and bosses lose wage subsidies. There is no way forward for this bankrupt capitalist system except to dump its crisis on the back of every worker.
Banbury workers and every member of Unite must demand that the union makes good its pledge for national strike action to kill fire and rehire and immediately launch a campaign to force the TUC to organise a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government.
A workers’ government will nationalise every major industry and company, placing them under the management of the working class as part of building a socialist planned economy.
This is the only way to end fire and rehire for good.